SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - The annual State of the Port Address was held Thursday, Sept. 12 at the Savannah Convention Center.
Georgia Governor Brian Kemp addressed the crowd and announced that the Port of Brunswick is “open for business” just days after the Golden Ray capsized in the St. Simons Sound.
Salvage crews are still working on a plan to remove the ship, and officials are trying to determine what caused the ship to tip.
“I’ve got to give kudos to the Coast Guard, to the Brunswick pilots, and the tug operators,” Gov. Kemp said. “Everybody’s working together to do what we can, and the ILA hasn’t really worked down there in two weeks when you put Dorian together with this, and I’m so pleased with them, because this afternoon, they’re working again.”
Georgia Ports Authority Executive Director, Griff Lynch, says two miracles came out of the situation with the Golden Ray this past weekend. The first was that all the crew members were rescued and are now safe. The other is the positioning of the ship in the water.
“When it rolled over and went onto its side, it went out of the channel, so the ship is positioned outside the channel, so other ships can pass it," Lynch said.
That’s not only good news for the companies depending on those vessels that have had to wait offshore, but also for the port workers who depend on that shipping traffic for their livelihood.
“I’m here to tell you, if you would have asked me on Sunday what would be happening, I wouldn’t be telling you this,” Lynch said. “I wouldn’t be telling you this, but we are, right now, at this very moment, moving ships inbound to the port, so the port is essentially reopened.”
Even though ships are being allowed through, they’ll have to pass carefully until the Golden Ray can be removed.
“We brought in four vessels today, and expect that they are working on those now, and by this evening, all those vessels will be at the dock, and tomorrow we’ll sail them," Lynch said. "I believe right now, we’re looking at daytime only, but as we become more comfortable, as the Coast Guard becomes more comfortable, we’ll work our way toward normal transiting operations.”
During the address, Governor Kemp told the crowd it’s his goal to get rural Georgia in on the developmental action, and he explained how.
“We’ll be unveiling a new initiative to harness the many opportunities that exist in rural Georgia by appointing a rural strike team that will develop and market mega sites across our state,” the governor said.
This has been another big year for the Port of Savannah, which continues to be one of the busiest ports in the country. The nation’s fastest-growing port is showing no signs of slowing down. Because of that, there is a lot of expansion on the horizon, not only on port property, but also further inland.
We’ve seen several development sites start to take shape in Chatham and surrounding counties in recent years. The port’s access to rail and the opening of the Mason Mega Rail Terminal will only increase the Georgia Ports Authority’s national reach
WTOC also got a look into the future, with Lynch highlighting a few major initiatives that will make the Port of Savannah even more competitive, starting with expanding operations to Hutchinson Island.
“Hutchinson Island can offer somewhere between 2.5-3 million TEU’s of capacity, and we’re really excited about it. We already own the land, it can be rail-served, which is exciting, and it’s going to be a great project," Lynch said.
During his address to the crowd Lynch also brought up the fact that the Talmadge will at some point need to be replaced, pointing out that it is necessary if Savannah wants to have a competitive edge in attracting the biggest ships in the next decade or so.
“They’re going to come, and whoever can handle those vessels is going to be the winner, and if we can’t handle them, we’re going to have a problem, so it’s not an urgent need today, but it’s a process that we need to start today," Lynch said.
Lynch says those conversations with the Georgia Department of Transportation have already begun on coming up with a plan for the bridge.
They recently elected William McKnight as their new chair and announced a new route with service to Central America. In addition, the project to deepen the inner harbor is set to begin at the end of this month.